4.24.1970 Greek Theater, Berkeley

Just 12 days after blowing minds at the Fillmore West, the Miles Davis sextet dove back into the festival circuit with an afternoon set at the University of California Jazz Fest in Berkeley. Did the band hang out in the bay area between gigs; did they drop in and jam at Keystone Korner; maybe check out Vince Guaraldi or a Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders gig at the Matrix? Nobody knows.

One thing’s for sure, this incomplete tape sounds as though it was recorded from deep inside the denim jacket of a squirrely undergrad. While that probably makes this one for completists only, it’s also the last document of the sextet before Keith Jarrett would join on electric organ.

Continue reading “4.24.1970 Greek Theater, Berkeley”

4.9 – 4.12.1970 Fillmore West

Having sized up Bill Graham’s Fillmore audience with two nights at Fillmore East the month prior, the Miles Davis sextet arrived at Fillmore West well-prepared for a four-night run opening for the Grateful Dead. They were also riding high on the release Bitches Brew, unleashed just days prior on March 30th, and by all accounts were fully intent on upstaging, outplaying, and straight-up out-psychedelicizing the Dead with nightly mind-melting sets.

Bassist Phil Lesh recalls his reaction to the April Fillmore West shows in his memoir, Searching for Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead

As I listened, leaning over the amps with my jaw hanging agape, trying to comprehend the forces that Miles was unleashing onstage, I was thinking, “What’s the use? How can we possibly play after this? We should just go home and try to digest this unbelievable shit.

Like most of Miles’ Fillmore gigs, all four nights were recorded, with the evening of April 11th memorialized on the Columbia double LP, Black Beauty.

Continue reading “4.9 – 4.12.1970 Fillmore West”

3.6 + 3.7.1970 Fillmore East

Shortly after the Bitches Brew sessions, Columbia head Clive Davis introduced Miles Davis to Bill Graham, rock impresario and owner of the Fillmore East and Fillmore West. These two nights at Fillmore East were the first of five residencies Miles’ sextet/septet performed at Graham’s East & West venues through 1971 for a total of 20 sets (at least by my count). The fact that he accepted Graham’s rate of $1500 instead of his typical $5000 per performance indicates just how dedicated Miles was to expanding his audience at the time.

Continue reading “3.6 + 3.7.1970 Fillmore East”

2.21.1970 Ann Arbor

1970 wasn’t just a pivotal year in the Miles Davis electric timeline – it was a universe away from what the quintet was up to just 4 months prior. Three main factors contributed to the drastic change in tone: Dave Holland switched over to electric bass, Chick Corea began running the Fender Rhodes signal through both an Oberheim ring modulator and Echoplex tape delay, and Brazilian percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreira joined the live lineup. The effect was stunning: a deeper, harder, more complex groove, and a sonic palette that would blow the minds of the headiest psychedelic warrior.

As if those changes weren’t significant enough to mark a clear change in direction, Miles added John McLaughlin on guitar for this February date at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival. Though the soundboard tape trims “Directions” from the start of the set and the mix is pretty out of whack (“Sanctuary”, “Bitches Brew” and “Masqualero” peak out severely, so watch your headphone volume), the performance is as incredible as you’d expect.

February 21, 1970
Continue reading “2.21.1970 Ann Arbor”

11.9.1969 Rotterdam

While the band closed out 1969 with a multi-night stand in Toronto and a pair of residencies at the Village Gate, this final stop on the European tour is the last known document of the Miles Davis Lost Quintet. Following large band studio sessions on November 19th and 28th, Miles began experimenting with an expanded live lineup – bringing guitarist Sonny Greenwich along for a few Toronto dates, making percussionist Airto Moreira a permanent fixture at the start of the year, and adding John McLaughlin for at least one gig in early 1970. And of course, Wayne Shorter would take his leave in the spring after 6 years by Miles’ side.

But first, Rotterdam. Maybe I was a bit premature in praising the Berlin gig as the quintet’s best of the year, because this show is every bit as good. Being the final night of a long tour, the band is both tighter and more playful than ever. Plus, the radio broadcast recording is phenomenal to boot – even Holland’s bass comes through loud and clear, which can’t be said for many of these ‘69 tapes.

Continue reading “11.9.1969 Rotterdam”

11.7.1969 Berlin

Is this Berlin gig the best Lost Quintet performance of 1969? For my money, it’s hard to find a better representation of this band. In terms of documentation, both the broadcast recording and the concert film are outstanding. Download the set below without hesitation, and if you don’t own the DVD of the performance included in The Bootleg Series Volume 2, make time to watch it in full. Seeing the Miles Davis quintet function as a single organism, one with such unbroken focus, will leave you in awe.

Continue reading “11.7.1969 Berlin”

11.5.1969 Stockholm

The inclusion of this Stockholm gig on The Bootleg Series Volume 2 is one of the more curious entries in the Miles Davis official live canon. The curiosity being why Columbia Legacy chose this show out of the many others recorded on this tour.

The band played 2 sets on this date, the first of which begins with Corea grappling with a screeching, howling, very obviously malfunctioning Fender Rhodes. A few minutes into the set, the keyboardist throws in the towel, leaving us with a piano-less “Bitches Brew” and a rare opportunity for Miles and Shorter to occupy the sonic real estate typically filled with some of the wildest playing of the set. Corea returns on acoustic piano for the last third of the tune, and remains on the instrument for the duration of the early set. Mercifully, Miles directs the remainder of the show toward his earlier, pre-electric material better suited for the acoustic lineup. A fine set, but a really peculiar, non-representative choice for official release.

Continue reading “11.5.1969 Stockholm”

11.4.1969 Copenhagen

Like a lot of shows from the fall European tour, a tape of this excellent Copenhagen performance has been floating out in the ether for decades. Columbia crowned it with semi-official status back in 2010 by including video of the set in its mega deluxe Bitches Brew 40th anniversary package, then gave it a broader audience by posting the complete concert to YouTube a couple months back. Point being, if you haven’t heard or seen this show, remedy that stat.

Continue reading “11.4.1969 Copenhagen”

11.3.1969 Paris

A week into the Newport Jazz Fest European tour, the quintet inexplicably shifts into a new gear here in Salle Pleyel. The set flow is honed to perfection, Corea, Holland, and DeJohnette are dialed in and playful, and a solid sound system allows Miles and Shorter to blow with utter confidence. Everything fell into place here, and thankfully we have video of the complete first set to bear witness.

Continue reading “11.3.1969 Paris”

11.2.1969 Ronnie Scott’s, London

After months’ worth of tapes from concert halls and festival stages, it’s a delight to hear the quintet back in a club setting. Because as much as Miles wanted to ratchet up the band’s volume and intensity throughout the year, the primitive amplification in these larger venues seems to have forced him beyond his comfort zone – often cutting through the mix at higher registers at the expense of that characteristically impeccable tone. Here at Ronnie Scott’s, he’s clearly in his element. 

Continue reading “11.2.1969 Ronnie Scott’s, London”